The Senate has claimed that the Minister of Works, Housing and Power Babatunde Fashola was spreading half-truths when he said that the National Assembly altered the ministry’s budget allocation.
In the statement released on Saturday by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, said that the projects were financed by a Private Finance Initiative, as the Federal Government could not afford to finance it all on its own.
Even as at last year the 2016 Appropriation Act voted N40 billion for the project on the insistence of the Ministry and only N26 billion was released. If we had known, the rest N14 billion could have been allocated to other critical roads across the country.
In the spirit of consensus building and effective stakeholder engagement, the Leadership of the Senate met with key relevant stakeholders, including the Ministries of Works and finance. It was agreed that we should give the Private Finance Initiative a chance to complement Government’s resources in the delivery of critical infrastructure assets across the country.
Hence, in this year’s budget, we have engaged with the Government and private sector groups who have assured that they will resume funding of the project. So, we only provided the fund in the budget that would ensure work does not stop before the funds from the private sector start coming in .What we reduced from Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in the 2017 budget estimate was spread on Oyo-Ogbomoso road in the South-west, Enugu-Onitsha road in the South-east, and two other critical roads in the North-east and North-west; and this was done to achieve equity. The Minister should realise he is Minister for the entire country and not just that of Lagos State.
It is our view that the Federal Government cannot fund the reconstruction and maintenance of all the 34,000 kilometres of roads under its care. We are looking for private funds for some of these roads, particularly those with high potentials of attracting private investors. These include the Enugu-Onitsha road, Kano-Abuja road and Abuja-Lokoja road. It has been our hope that the Lagos -Ibadan road would be a model for private sector funding of infrastructure in the country.
The statement said that the projects the minister claimed were imported into the budget were 26 projects the Federal Government had approved in the 2016 budget but omitted in the 2017 budget.
The Minister’s statement is in bad taste and we believe he has been quoted out of context as an experienced public servant with over 15 years of high level responsibility will not be uttering such statements. He should desist from spreading half-truths. When he said the National Assembly imported projects into the 2017 budget, he did not mention that these include the 26 projects which the Federal Government approved in the 2016 budget, awarded contract for them in January 2016, but totally omitted them in the 2017 budget. One of them is the Abuja-Kaduna road. These ones would have become abandoned projects. We reduced funds across board to make provision for these omitted projects that are of critical importance to the socio-economic development of the country in line with equity and fair play.
Mr. Fashola obviously wants the Federal Ministry of Works to have many construction projects it can award contracts for and that is why he would always oppose any attempt to allow the private sector financing initiatives through Public Private Partnerships or other levels of Government to fund construction of roads under the control of the Federal Government. That was why he waited until he was arm-twisted on the Lagos Airport road before he allowed the Lagos State Government take up the reconstruction, using private funds. Same thing happened to the proposal for the Apapa Wharf Road, which was frustrated for over a year before the stakeholders reined in the Ministry to grudgingly approve that Dangote and Flour Mills should take over the project.
It should also be explained that nobody introduced budgetary provisions for the sinking of boreholes and construction of clinics under the budget of the Works division of the Ministry. However, the Housing division would ordinarily have provision for such facilities in its estimate, so as to meet the Sustainable Development Goals as provided for by the United Nations . This is aimed at reducing slums and improve the well-being of our citizenry.
The National Assembly already have an agreement with the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, that if for example, the Private Finance Initiative does not materialize to provide the needed funds for the completion of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, just as in other areas where government has issues with the budget, the instruments of Virement and supplementary budget can be used. This is as a result of our belief that it is one Government and we all share the gains of the successes and pains of the failure. However, with all these blackmail game and backbiting going on, they are already laying the foundation for the failure of the agreement with the Executive.
Photo Credit: Lukesh Photography